Full case report

Carr v News Group Newspapers Ltd & Others

Reference 14/05/2004
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 14 May 2004


Summary

Injunctive Relief – Confidence – Threats to Kill – ECHR – Article 2 – Article 3 – Article 8 – Article 10 – s.12 Human Rights Act 1998


Facts

On the eve of Maxine Carr’s release from prison her solicitors applied without notice for an injunction to restrain the media from publishing any information about Carr’s new identity and whereabouts. She had received death threats which the police believed to be credible. The injunction was sought on the basis of breach of confidence and contra mundum on the basis of the threats she had received. At the hearing on 13 May 2004 neither the Claimant nor the Home Secretary (who supported the application) made any reference to s.12 Human Rights Act 1998. News Group and Mirror Group applied to have the order set aside on the basis that s.12 had been breached. Further, they contended that the prohibition on soliciting information was disproportionate given the ban on publication (to which they did not object pending a full hearing).


Issue

(1) Whether the injunction should be set-aside for breach of s.12; (2) Whether a new injunction should be granted in similar terms; (3) Whether the prohibition on soliciting information should remain


Held

(1) Although there had been no reference to s.12 at the ex parte hearing, the Judge was satisfied that there were compelling reasons why it was not practicable to contact the media. The injunction would not be discharged. (2) The ban on soliciting information would remain. The Judge was satisfied that the act of soliciting information might increase the risk to Carr’s life and justified the restriction.


Comment

This was a serious breach of the protection meant to be afforded to the media under s.12. It was common ground that the section had not been referred to or specifically considered by the Judge, yet no sanction followed from the breach. Overall, the Court’s treatment of s.12 has meant that the real protection it was supposed to offer to the media has proved to be almost completely illusory. It led to the recognition of privacy rights in Douglas v Hello!; having “particular regard” to the right of freedom of expression was held to be nothing more than a tick-box in Imutran; in Cream Holdings the Court of Appeal ruled that “likely to succeed” means no more than a realistic prospect of success (thereby lowering the threshold for injunctive relief in media cases); and in Maxine Carr a wide injunction was granted without any notice being given to the media and without the Court even considering s.12.


Instructing Solicitors

Farrer & Co for NGN Ltd and MGN Ltd


Links

Carr privacy protection to remain - BBC
Carr's protection stays after death threats - The Scotsman
Court shields Carr after threats to life - The Guardian